Monday, June 2, 2008

How to Make Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese is actually made only in North America. In Europe and Australia it's called Emmental, though the exact recipe differs somewhat. Swiss cheese is perhaps one of the most easily recognized cheeses thanks to the large holes or "eyes" that riddle it. This is actually due to the bacteria in the cheese producing carbon dioxide bubbles that are trapped in the cheese as its solidifies. These bacteria are unique to Swiss cheese and also produce an acid which is what makes the cheese known for its sharp flavor.

Things You’ll Need:
1 Gallon of Fresh Milk

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Yogurt

1/4 Teaspoon of Propionibacterium shermanii Culture

1/2 Tablet of Junket Rennet

Large Pots

Measuring Cups


Sharp Knife

Clean Cloth


Accurate Candy Thermometer

Stirring Spoon

Fresh Water

Several Large Bowls

Large Fridge and Freezer With Humidity Control and Temperature Control

Cheese Hoop


Drying Board


Making Swiss Cheese
Step 1:
Place a large pot on the stove and turn the heat on its lowest setting. Pour the whole gallon of milk into the pot and clip the candy thermometer to the inside. Make sure the tip of the thermometer isn't touching the bottom of the pot or your temperature readings will be off.

Step 2:
Heat the milk to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a little of the milk into a separate bowl and add to it all the yogurt and all the Propionibacterium shermanii culture. Whisk the bowl's contents back into the milk. Take the pot off the heated burner and let it alone for twenty minutes.

Step 3:
Pour 1/4 cup of cool water into a small mixing bowl and add the 1/2 tablet of Rennet. Crush the tablet first if you have to, then dissolve it thoroughly with the whisk. Because you are working with bacteria it is essential that you clean all containers and utensils with hot soapy water between uses. To that end you should first wash your whisk before using it to dissolve the Rennet.

Step 4:
Pour the Rennet mixture into the milk and mix it slowly. You don't want to agitate the milk, just mix it. Cover the pot with a cloth and leave it alone, completely untouched for half an hour. When you check on it the milk should have separated into curds and whey.

Step 5:
Use a sharp knife to cut the curds into a grid pattern about 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch. If the curd is not solid enough to hold the rows your knife defines then you didn't add enough Rennet and should try again. You could try adding more Rennet now instead of throwing out what you have, but the resulting cheese isn't likely to be as good.

Step 6:
Put the pot back on the stove and maintain the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit for a little over half an hour. Slowly increase the temperature up to 125 while stirring to keep the mixture from burning or sticking to the pot. Once it reaches 125, cook it at that temperature for another 45 minutes. Don't stir it while it cooks.

Step 7:
Take the pot off the burner and allow the mixture to cool until it's bearable to the touch. Test to see if it's done cooking by squeezing a handful of curds into a ball and rubbing it between your palms. If the curds are done then they will crumble and break up in your hands. When the curds settle in the pot, use your ladle to take out what whey you can. Put this is a separate catch bowl for later.

Step 8:
Layer a clean cloth over a strainer or colander. Hold the strainer over the whey catch bowl and pour in the contents of the pot. The whey should strain mostly through and the curds should be caught in the cloth.

Step 9:
Wad up the cloth so the curd are in a ball in the center. Wrap the ball tightly and dip it in the whey catch bowl to keep it moist. Put the whole cloth into the cheese hoop and slowly press it for five minutes. The cheese hoop's job is to press out the moisture, as well as shape the cheese. The hoop is what gives cheese its solid pressed consistency rather than let the cheese fall apart. Thankfully automated cheese hoops exist so you need not worry about pressing the cheese for almost a full day by hand.

Step 10:
Open the cheese hoop and remove the cloth. The cheese should be able to hold together by itself for a few minutes. In a large bowl dissolve six tablespoons of salt into two cups of water. Rinse the cloth in the saltwater, then wrap the cheese up in the soaked cloth and put it back in the cheese hoop. Press the cheese for three hours. Make sure the container the saltwater is in can comfortably accommodate the cheese while keeping the cheese completely submerged.

Step 11:
Repeat this process for another three hours.

Step 12:
Remove the cloth, rinse it again, and set it with the curd back into the cheese hoop. Press the cheese all night long. To save time, chill the remaining salt brine solution down to 45 degrees Fahrenheit over the same night.

Step 13:
Remove the cheese from the hoop in the morning and put it in the salt brine solution, make sure it's totally submerged and leave it for two days at a steady 45 degrees. Flip the cheese after the first day.

Step 14:
Place the cheese on a drying board inside a refrigerator at 50 degrees with 90% humidity. The cheese will sweat moisture for ten days. Wipe down the board and the cheese each day. At the end of the ten days rub salt into the surfaces of the cheese.

Step 15:
Alter the temperature of the fridge to 70 degrees Fahrenheit with 75% humidity and wipe the cheese down with a salt water soaked cloth once every three days. Do this for a full 45 days. Make sure the cloth and salt water you use are both clean and fresh before each use. If you don't then you run the risk of introducing harmful bacteria into the cheese, which could make anybody who consumed the cheese very sick. By the end of the 45 days the cheese should have puffed up and developed holes because of the bacterial production of carbon dioxide. This is a good sign that everything is going as it should.

Step 16:
Lower the temperature back down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and cut the humidity to 50%. Leave the cheese untouched to cure completely. This will take between four months and a whole year to complete. The longer you let the cheese cure, the more propionic acid it produces, enhancing the flavor.

Tips & Warnings
The longer Swiss cheese is aged, the larger the eyes in the cheese become, and the sharper the flavor becomes from the build up of propionic acid. Because the aging process for Swiss cheese takes so long that cheese makers make less of a profit from well aged cheeses. Because of this the really well aged Swiss cheeses are rare to find commercially and may need to be special ordered.

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